The Book of Unwritten Tales is a joy to play thanks to King Art who have done a great job of capturing all the ingredients of an excellent point and click adventure and have put them together with high level production values. From the opening cut scenes the quality of the story telling, humour and artwork stand out, but then to be fair any games that starts with an archaeologist, who owns a bullwhip and has a box in their house that looks strangely like the Ark of the Covenant is a winner in my book, even if said character is a gremlin.
The humour is a very important part of what make The Book of Unwritten Tales enjoyable to play and keeps the player’s interest and it is very reminiscent of the early Simon the Sorcerer games. The character dialogue is laced with great one-liners but there are also entire sub-plots within the game that are based on a joke, for example the two characters in a tavern addicted to playing an ‘on-line’ role playing game in a fantasy world where magic, dragons and orcs don’t exist, instead the players are focused on paying their taxes and avoiding traffic wardens, and the player needs to work out how to break their addiction to the game in order to get their help.
The Book of Unwritten Tales is also laced with references to films, legends, and even real life such as the archaeologist with the bullwhip as mentioned earlier, and a bit-part character remarking that “Gremlins, shouldn’t feed them after midnight you know?”, and another commenting that you should “…remember never look a medusa in the eye and never look at anyone on the underground”.
All of the characters are well defined and have their own personalities and quirks making the interaction and dialogue interesting and engaging. A similar thing can be said for the artwork as each location is well designed, well drawn and generally great to look at, though sometimes this does make it difficult to identify the objects you are supposed to interact with as they blend so well with the scenery and can sometimes be quite small.
As far as game play goes, this is a pure point and click adventure, the player needs to talk to everybody possible, pick up everything they can, and combine objects where possible. There are points where it appears obvious as to what the character needs to do to progress but achieving this seems overly difficult as you’re clearly missing key items and this can get a little frustrating until you realise that many of the characters within the game have multiple functions and uses, so you often need to speak to them more than once, and that the spacebar highlights all the objects on the screen that you can interact with which helps you find that elusive item you were looking for. The game is also broken down into small pieces where the characters can only access three or four different locations which means you know you are not going to have to back track through half the adventure to find the item you are looking for as it will be somewhere with the current group of locations.
The game contains a very simple inventory system which displays the items a character is carrying and allows you to use them or combine them to make more useful objects, however it would be nice if the game provided some negative feedback like “You can’t combine those items” rather than just not doing anything as this can lead to you trying to combine things several times just to make sure you weren’t doing it wrong. Similar negative feedback would be useful when trying to use items from your inventory with people and items within the game.
Another nice aspect of the game is that you can play a number of characters that you pick up along the way, and each of these characters has their own personality, strengths and weaknesses, like a gnome who can crawl through small places but isn’t tall enough to reach certain items or strong enough to activate others.
The level of puzzles within the games are difficult enough that they will challenge most game players but not so difficult that the player will be stuck for so long that they lose interest in the game, but if you do struggle remember the old point and click rules - talk to everybody again, click on everything you can, and pick up everything you can as you never know when it might come in handy. The Book of Unwritten Tales also includes some elements that are almost mini sub-games such as learning how to brew a magic potion where the player has to follow the recipe very carefully adding the ingredients at exactly the right time and stir the mixture the correct number of times in the right direction. However, after the sixth or seventh cauldron explosion because of a minor mistake these can start to lose their attraction.
All in all, The Book of Unwritten Tales is a thoroughly entertaining and engaging adventure game with a classic fantasy storyline, well thought-out plot lines, loveable characters, and plenty of humour that is must for anybody who likes point and click adventures, and breathes a fresh breath of life in to this genre of game.
A gremlin archaeologist, a sexy elf maiden, a rough and ready pirate of the skies...